Brad's Reviews > The Man Who Went Up in Smoke

The Man Who Went Up in Smoke by Maj Sjöwall
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Jan 18, 12

bookshelves: audio-book, eastern-european-lit, swedish-lit, police-procedural, mystery, iron-curtain-lit
Read from October 07, 2011 to January 18, 2012, read count: 1

I could hear the cigarettes and bourbon tearing apart narrator Tom Weiner's vocal chords as I listened to his reading of The Man Who Went Up in Smoke, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Weiner's voice adds aural texture to a book overflowing with atmospheric texture; he compliments the Martin Beck tale perfectly with his slurry gravelly voice.

And that's seems important to me here in a way that it doesn't in all audiobooks. I think it is because of how important this series is to its genre.

The Martin Beck books aren't merely perceived as the inspiration for the authors who followed Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahloo, many of the authors who have gone on to write police procedurals admit their debt fully. Val McDermid claims this inspiration in his foreword to this edition of The Man Who Went Up in Smoke and Henning Mankell did the same in his foreword to Roseanna.

Mankell's debt is easily traceable. His Kurt Wallander novel, The Dogs of Riga, is a direct descendent of The Man Who Went Up in Smoke. Wallander spends his time in Riga, Latvia, at the height of the Cold War, investigating a murder, just as Martin Beck spends his time in Budapest, Hungry investigating a man's disappearance. The similarities are such that they feel like companion pieces, pieces meant to be read together as a way to consider the same tale from the perspectives of different eras.

But I discovered a potential link of inspiration that surprised me (and I'd love to have an admission for this from the author himself -- just to satisfy my curiosity). I am willing to bet that China Miéville read The Man Who Went Up in Smoke when he was gearing up to write The City and the City. In a much simpler form, the tale of Tyador Borlú's search for the killer of Mahalia Geary is present here. But the most interesting link is the way Beck moves between the cities that are Budapest. It is a city and a city, and that idea is playing on the edges of The Man Who Went Up in Smoke.

These connections and those who've been inspired by Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahloo don't really matter for too many of us. What does matter is that these are some seriously satisfying mysteries. Must reading (or listening) for any serious fan of the police procedural.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Ian (last edited Jan 20, 2012 01:23PM) (new)

Ian Heidin-Seek Thanks, Brad, this review makes me want to read both books. (I loved The City and The City.)


Brad Me too (loving The City and the City). It was even better the second time I read it, actually.


message 3: by Ian (new)

Ian Heidin-Seek Brad wrote: "Me too (loving The City and the City). It was even better the second time I read it, actually."

I assume that you can focus on the craft much more, second time around.

I wrote my review from memory, which I normally never do. However, the world was so vivid in my memory.


Brad Yes indeed. Already being familiar with the characters and places enabled me to really focus on what he was doing and dig deeper into the text.


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